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Outfitter Permit Expansion in the Elkhorns (HD 380)

Griztrax

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It was recently brought to my attention that Montana Trophy Outfitters has applied to the BLM to expand their permit area by 50,000 acres in the south portion of HD380. Here is a link to the BLM webpage that describes the proposal and has some maps showing the location: https://eplanning.blm.gov/eplanning-ui/project/118464/510

If the link above isn't hyper-linked, just copy and paste into a new browser. This outfitter has 25,000 acres of private lease in the district (as per their website) and is now requesting an additional 50,000 acres of public land on which to guide clients. Public comment is being taken via email or USPS and the address of who to contact is on the web page. If you feel strongly about this proposal (one way or the other), I encourage you to reach out to the BLM. Public comment is being taken for another week or so.
 

Nameless Range

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Some thoughts:

-This permit documentation offers no information on hunter days, clients, the BLM rate (flat or per client).Nothing.

-It says nothing about which parcels included are landlocked, which are currently publicly accessible.

-It doesn't speak at all to current use on the landscape, and how this may affect that.

-It makes no mention of the the fact that this proposed Categorical Exclusion includes the Black Sage Wilderness Study Area, tens of thousands of acres of BLM Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC), as well as the nation's only Wildlife Management Unit.

-They say nothing about other agencies or contingents they spoke to to inform their decision to append this to an existing permit (USFS, DNRC, County, Private landowners).

-It says nothing about how the decision was made to propose utilizing a Categorical Exclusion to increase permitted acres from 2 sq miles to nearly 80.

My gut reaction is this is rushed and the communication about how it came to be is poor and insufficient.
 

KMO385

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Nameless Range, your are correct this seems like a very rushed, and poorly put together permit app. Their so much missing, EIS along with all the stuff you mentioned. I believe the best thing to do is make a lot of noise about this through public comments and elected officials.
 

mulecreek

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Would approval of this permit expansion increase the use by hunters of this BLM land? Short of any land locked sections its already huntable by the unguided public isn't it? Would this permit make it so that the unguided public could not hunt it? I'm curious if this expansion would have any increased or decreased impact on the land.
 

Nameless Range

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Would approval of this permit expansion increase the use by hunters of this BLM land? Short of any land locked sections its already huntable by the unguided public isn't it? Would this permit make it so that the unguided public could not hunt it? I'm curious if this expansion would have any increased or decreased impact on the land.


This permit explicitly states that permitting on these parcels cannot prevent the public from accessing them. It does not create exclusive use.

That said, it most certainly would increase the amount of use on BLM lands. How much? We have no idea, because the CX doesn’t speak to client days or number of clients or even enforcement.

The article that comes out in the standard Thursday will speak more to it I think, but I know the local Houndsman community are concerned about a massive increase in mountain lion and probably now, hound hunting for bear, in the area.
 

kwyeewyk

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Someone should look up 43 CFR 2932.5 in regards to the definition of "special area", the CX for recreation management cannot be used to issue SRPs for "Special Area" management per NEPA handbook. Wilderness or ACEC might apply. Don't have time now but will look up later if nobody else does.
 

Nameless Range

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Someone should look up 43 CFR 2932.5 in regards to the definition of "special area", the CX for recreation management cannot be used to issue SRPs for "Special Area" management per NEPA handbook. Wilderness or ACEC might apply. Don't have time now but will look up later if nobody else does.
Dug into this this yesterday.

From the proposal, page 3: https://eplanning.blm.gov/public_pr...762/MontanaTrophyOutfitters_CX_Amendment1.pdf

COMPLIANCE WITH NEPA The proposed action described above does not require the preparation of an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS), as it has been found to not have significant effects on the human environment. The applicable Categorical Exclusion reference is BLM NEPA Handbook, Appendix 4, Section H, page 153 which states that the following action is categorically excluded pursuant to 516 CM 11.9: Issuance of Special Recreation Permits for day-use or overnight use up to 14 consecutive nights; that impacts no more than 3 staging area acres; and/or for recreational travel along roads, trails, or in areas authorized in a land use plan. This categorical exclusion is appropriate in this situation because there are no extraordinary circumstances potentially having effects that may significantly affect the environment. The proposed action has been reviewed, and as documented below, none of the extraordinary circumstances described in 43 CFR 46.215 appl


From the BLM NEPA Handbook


H. Recreation Management 1. Issuance of Special Recreation Permits for day use or overnight use up to 14 consecutive nights; that impacts no more than 3 staging area acres; and/or for recreational travel along roads, trails, or in areas authorized in a land use plan. This CX cannot be used for commercial boating permits along Wild and Scenic Rivers. This CX cannot be used for the establishment or issuance of Special Recreation Permits for “Special Area” management (43 CFR 2932.5).


From the CFR referenced above:


Special area means: (1) An area officially designated by statute, or by Presidential or Secretarial order; (2) An area for which BLM determines that the resources require special management and control measures for their protection; or (3) An area covered by joint agreement between BLM and a State under Title II of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a et seq.)


I couldn't find whether or not the WMU, the WSA, or the ACEC within the proposal would be considered "resources that require special management"
 

Hem

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Kinda hard to believe this won't include the wilderness study area based upon the 50k acreage.
Since I live in Southern Broadwater I'm having a tough time NOT thinking about how this will affect many local hunters, myself included.
Such as...adjacent private holdings that historically have been generous to hunters that live in the vicinity.
Just days before this thread I heard about local properties all of a sudden closing their gates. Makes me wonder.
 

kwyeewyk

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Dug into this this yesterday.

From the proposal, page 3: https://eplanning.blm.gov/public_pr...762/MontanaTrophyOutfitters_CX_Amendment1.pdf

COMPLIANCE WITH NEPA The proposed action described above does not require the preparation of an environmental assessment (EA) or environmental impact statement (EIS), as it has been found to not have significant effects on the human environment. The applicable Categorical Exclusion reference is BLM NEPA Handbook, Appendix 4, Section H, page 153 which states that the following action is categorically excluded pursuant to 516 CM 11.9: Issuance of Special Recreation Permits for day-use or overnight use up to 14 consecutive nights; that impacts no more than 3 staging area acres; and/or for recreational travel along roads, trails, or in areas authorized in a land use plan. This categorical exclusion is appropriate in this situation because there are no extraordinary circumstances potentially having effects that may significantly affect the environment. The proposed action has been reviewed, and as documented below, none of the extraordinary circumstances described in 43 CFR 46.215 appl


From the BLM NEPA Handbook


H. Recreation Management 1. Issuance of Special Recreation Permits for day use or overnight use up to 14 consecutive nights; that impacts no more than 3 staging area acres; and/or for recreational travel along roads, trails, or in areas authorized in a land use plan. This CX cannot be used for commercial boating permits along Wild and Scenic Rivers. This CX cannot be used for the establishment or issuance of Special Recreation Permits for “Special Area” management (43 CFR 2932.5).


From the CFR referenced above:


Special area means: (1) An area officially designated by statute, or by Presidential or Secretarial order; (2) An area for which BLM determines that the resources require special management and control measures for their protection; or (3) An area covered by joint agreement between BLM and a State under Title II of the Sikes Act (16 U.S.C. 670a et seq.)


I couldn't find whether or not the WMU, the WSA, or the ACEC within the proposal would be considered "resources that require special management"
I feel like all three fit the definition, they are called out to be managed differently with extra control measures than surrounding areas to protect unique values.

Certainly worth commenting on, it's a substantive comment that will have to be addressed. Might be worth looking through the Resource Management Plan to see what it says about those areas. They might be saying the proposed action would fit within the protective measures for those areas and therefore see it as an allowable action under the CX since it wouldn't affect the designation of those areas as special and wouldn't be considered a "special area" management decision. That's my guess.
 

Nameless Range

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I feel like all three fit the definition, they are called out to be managed differently with extra control measures than surrounding areas to protect unique values.

Certainly worth commenting on, it's a substantive comment that will have to be addressed. Might be worth looking through the Resource Management Plan to see what it says about those areas. They might be saying the proposed action would fit within the protective measures for those areas and therefore see it as an allowable action under the CX since it wouldn't affect the designation of those areas as special and wouldn't be considered a "special area" management decision. That's my guess.

Thanks, I have read the Butte RMP many times, and every time I end thinking that it shouldn't be this hard. :)

Just to keep it simple, when reading about the Black Sage WSA, which is included in the proposed permit expansion:

From the Butte RMP: https://eplanning.blm.gov/public_projects/lup/69645/91135/109913/rod.pdf

....to be managed under the Interim Management Policy and Guidelines for Lands under Wilderness Review (BLM Handbook H-8550-1 dated 1995) until such time as Congress either designates them as wilderness or releases them from further consideration as wilderness. The wilderness characteristics (naturalness, outstanding opportunities for solitude, and outstanding opportunities for primitive and unconfined recreation) of each of the six WSAs will continue to be protected under the IMP directives. (Goals WSA1, WF2, RM1, SE2, SE4)

So ok, you look at the definitions of those IMP directives:

WSA1 – basically manage for wilderness characteristics

WF2 - Conserve, enhance, restore, or minimize impacts to areas of important wildlife habitat such as rare or limited seasonal habitats, corridors, blocks of intact functional habitat across the landscape, areas of low road-density, and foraging areas.

RM1 -Provide a diverse array of recreational opportunities while maintaining healthy public land resources.


Interestingly, RM3, which is not applicable to the Black Sage, is the rec management goal that mentions special recreation permits. Specifically: Manage commercial, competitive, or special events with special recreation permits that eliminate or minimize impacts on resources and conflicts with other users.

SE2 - Provide for a diverse array of activities that result in social benefits for local residents, businesses, visitors, interested citizens, and future generations, while minimizing negative social effects.


The business portion of this definition seems in line with permitting this massive expansion, though it still isn't clear to me when a CX is appropriate and when it is not. The "minimizing social effects" seems like it could be a larger consideration if enough hell is raised.

SE4 - Protect visual quality, wildlife habitats, and recreation opportunities to sustain non-market values

Who knows. Hope to find out more soon. On a side note, the red tape of government is so incongruent it is confusing sometimes. I am part of a group that has been trying to replace a washed out bridge in a BLM WSA in the same district for well over a year now. There was a bridge over this creek that contains cuttys, it washed out, it should be replaced to protect the resource as it is a popular trail for stock and bikes, and the rigmarole to do so has been surprisingly extensive . Specifically, the hesitancy to use a categorical exclusion to construct the bridge in that specific WSA due to the fact that it is in a WSA....
 
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Nameless Range

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Here is some clarification on some of these things discussed yesterday with the BLM for anyone who would like to further inform any comment they plan on giving. To be clear, I have no negative feelings toward the outfitter nor any of the people involved with the BLM, and in fact my position is they are asked to do too much with too little. First, I will steelman what I understood to be the BLM’s position based on what they told us.

Utilizing a Categorical Exclusion (CX) for this type of Special Recreation Permit (SRP) is standard operating practice. In fact, they typically would not even put this out for public comment. It is their position that this SRP would have little effect on the landscape, on wildlife, and on the public’s experience, but will benefit the area economically. There is already one other outfitter that is permitted in much of this country.

OK.

Here is some further information.

-This permit has no limit whatsoever on the amount of clients/hunter days this outfitter will be allowed to utilized.

-This outfitter guides for deer and elk in 380, but chiefly, this will likely be used for guiding predator hunts (cat and bear)

-When asked about whether the BLM’s position that extension of SRPs has a threshold where a CX would not be utilized (here we are going from 2 sq miles to nearly 80), the answer was no. They just use CX for these types of permit expansions, and permits in general.

-The assumption is that the BLM’s agency-wide position that “this kind” of permit will not have any negative landscape,wildlife, or social effects. Does that blanket assumption change from bioregion to bioregion? Does it change when it is ungulate vs predator hunting? Does it change when hounds are being utilized to hunt cats and bear in critical wintering ground across tens of thousands of acres of Areas of Critical Environmental Concern in the elk calving factory of the Elkhorns? These are unanswered questions.

-The Black Sage WSA will be taken out of the proposal. CX are not to be used in this type of SRP in Wilderness Study Areas. The proposal map for this was changed yesterday after the meeting.

-When I asked if the BLM would entertaining extending the comment period, given that there is less than a week left for comments, there is significant public interest, and they have had erroneous information up on their eplanning website for the majority of the open comment period, I was told,”We encourage you to get your comments in by August, 31st.” I’ll take that as a no.

-The BLM did not inquire with other agencies on the current use on the landscape in terms of hunter days, potential conflicts, etc. It pretty much sounded like they hadn’t spoken to FWP bios at all. The USFS representative said she, "just found out about this a couple days ago."

The standard operating practice position of the BLM that this just won’t change much on the landscape is dubious. In fact, I’d say it is patently false. The question is to what degree will the potential negative effects exist, and I think an EA would help with that. There was a really knowledgeable lion-hunter on the meeting who had some really in-depth nuanced reasons why this would harm the cat hunting opportunity for the general public having to do with geography, exclusive access to certain gulches for looking for tracks, etc. I am not knowledgeable enough on the subject to speak on that.There was more, but this is my quick take.

Lastly, I think it more than past time for a “come to Jesus” moment for all of us. Use across the landscape of the west is skyrocketing. It’s out of control with little sign of slowing down. Whether it is FWP, USFS, or the BLM, perhaps the most meaningful question we should be asking ourselves is: Are those tasked with managing our wildlife and the landscape, positioning their management for the benefit of not just this year or the next,or ten years down the road – but for decades? Things are changing so fast. This is a ten year permit.

My position. The public should push for a full EA. Push back against the idea that this is just SOP and not a big deal. Make them show their work.
 
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Nameless Range

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Article with a little more info.


Also, here is a quick look a the Boulder Valley, it's public lands, and the generous Block Management opportunities that currently exist there.

BoulderValley.jpg
 

Luke_with_a_lab

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Emailed BLM with my public comment. As griztrax said Montana Trophy Outfitters Website says they lease 25,000 acres of private land in 380. I guess my question is how can they honestly say they need more land to hunt on? I have a hard time believing they cant get their clients tags filled. Also seems like a fair amount of the BLM land they want is part of the elk's winter range. If they are guiding cat hunts during the winter and bear hunts during the spring they are just going to bump those elk around even more.
 

Gerald Martin

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From the lion hunting perspective, I don’t think this would affect the deer and elk wintering too much.

I am not familiar with the quotas for lions in this unit but there’s only so many that can be killed.
It will increase competition with resident lion hunters. When you have guys running lions as their hobby/passion they can’t compete with an outfitter who is charging $5000-8000 for a week long hunt.

Bear hunting is another unknown. No quota, no limit of user days. I can see an outfitter booking a lot of bear hunts with this new opportunity.

I think the biggest competition is going to be within the hound hunters.
 

Carnage2011

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Emailed BLM with my public comment. As griztrax said Montana Trophy Outfitters Website says they lease 25,000 acres of private land in 380. I guess my question is how can they honestly say they need more land to hunt on? I have a hard time believing they cant get their clients tags filled. Also seems like a fair amount of the BLM land they want is part of the elk's winter range. If they are guiding cat hunts during the winter and bear hunts during the spring they are just going to bump those elk around even more.
I hope this doesn’t go through but that’s for other reasons. Lewton has the Mulvey Gulch leased which is a big piece of ground. He also leases some stuff from Dawson’s. I wouldn’t say he has anything great leased for elk hunting on the 380 side. Mulvey is good but most of the elk those guys kill in 380 seem to come off the river bottom.
If his plan is to run lions then I’m not necessarily opposed. There is a quota and it will be met by locals or the outfitter. If anything I could see this helping the elk that winter on that end. More competition for cats will likely result in the quota closing earlier and therefore having less impact on elk later in the winter.

As far as bear hunters in the spring. Those elk get bumped by shed hunters long before a bear shows up…
 
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